World War II, 70 Years Later

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World War II, 70 Years Later


Happy New Year. The year of 2011 will be the 70th anniversary of the entry by the U.S into World War II. Our entry into a two-year old European conflict and the widening of the war into a true “world war” was caused by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and U.S. bases in the Philippines. A number of years ago, I wrote about my personal memories of the war for a special edition of the Register. Here is a reprint of that article for young and old alike.

Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember the song by that name? And what about others like “Heil, Phut, Right in Der Fuehrer’s Face,” Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,” “Coming in On a Wing and a Prayer?” If you do recall them, then you remember World War II.

I remember being in Canada with my parents when the war in Europe began in September of 1939. We didn’t know whether we would interned in that British Empire nation or not. I was in the old Madison Theatre in June of 1941 when the show stopped long enough for the announcement that Russia had been invaded by Germany. And on that quiet Sunday afternoon on December 7, 1941, I was home alone listening to my father’s Majestic radio when the music was interrupted by the announcement that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. No one expected the war to last very long — but it was nearly four years later that peace came.

Many homes had blue stars hanging in their windows to indicate a son in the service. A few had gold stars to show a son had died. I remember that Harold Jennings had 30 bombing missions over Europe. I had a cousin who put in 58 missions over New Guinea and several other relatives in the Army and Navy. My father had been in World War I and I did not to the Army until the Korean War, so we were the “home front.”

That meant ration cards for gasoline and food. Remember A, B, C or T stickers for your car? And the revised speed limit (was it 35 or 45 mph?) to preserve gas and tires (which wore out quickly now that Malayan rubber was unavailable). We even had Victory Gardens. The Blue Grass Ordinance Depot (BGOD) opened and we pronounced it d-eh-po, to differentiate it from the railroad d-ee-po. A bus picked up and deposited workers from the Depot in front of the Glyndon Hotel, thereby saving more gas. We never had an air raid, but we had practice blackouts when the shades were pulled and the warden roamed the street checking for stray lights. I remember Dr. Samuel Walker across the street on South Third with his head almost inside the radio listening to the evening news. My dad bought an atlas to follow the progress of the far-flung fighting and we followed the H.V. Kaltenborn revelations in it. I later had the sad duty of playing “Taps” at some of the military funerals in the Richmond Cemetery.

V.E. (Victory in Europe) day passed on May 8, 1945, rather serenely. We knew Hitler was dead and some Navy officer had taken over and surrendered. Our enthusiasm was dampened by the knowledge that General Tojo and Emperor Hirohito remained and we all expected a long, bloody campaign to take the home islands of Japan. On August 14, 1945, VJ (Victory in Japan) day, I was digging potatoes with my father in our family Victory Garden at the end of South Third Street (where my granddaughters played softball decades later). Suddenly sirens began to blow, church bells rang out and the Eastern whistle blew (it usually only blew to announce class changes and when Eastern beat Western in a sporting event). We both immediately knew the war was over. I walked up South Third Street to Main and watched the celebration as car horns joined with the cheers and the general whoopee. Church sanctuaries were opened up and many prayers of thankfulness were given. We may not have matched Times Square in New York, but Main Street, Richmond, did its best.

And then the boys began to come home. Save those of whom the poet wrote — “They carry back bright to the coiner the mintage of man. The lads that will die in their glory and never grow old.”

Seventy years now, three score and 10, a lifetime.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “World War II, 70 Years Later,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed January 20, 2022,